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            Mayor Mufi Hannemann has announced that he will establish the Honolulu County Sports Commission, featuring some of the island’s top names in sports, to support local sports and attract new events as means of stimulating the growth of the state’s sports industry.


            The announcement was made on Monday, September 10, at Senor Frog’s Restaurant in Waikiki.


            Mayor Hannemann said, “I’ve long held that Hawaii is known the world over for its five Ss: sun, sand, sea, surf, and the spirit of aloha.  But we have successfully added another S—sports—to that mix.  While we’ve developed a number of signature events, there’s more we can do to attract new events or expand existing ones.  I’m hoping to tap the experience and know-how of some of our most prominent local sports figures to aid us in reaching our goals.


            “This announcement comes at a pivotal time.  The National Football League has made it known that Hawaii may lose the Pro Bowl to another city.  Maybe we can lure an NFL pre-season game to Honolulu as an alternative.  It may be possible to have our city serve as a site for pre-Olympic training or activities of a similar stature.  There’s potential for pro baseball teams from Japan and Korea to train here.  We once had Major League Baseball play a series at Aloha Stadium and perhaps we can repeat that success.  There are countless amateur and professional contests, in every sport, that would find Oahu attractive.  Our excellent City sports facilities, great weather, easy access from destinations across the globe, terrific hotels, and warm people combine to make this the ideal location for athletics.  What’s missing is an organization to identify and pursue events, and that’s what I hope the Honolulu County Sports Commission will eventually become.”


            The members of the commission represent the range of sports:  Tita Ahuna, Tita Ahuna Volleyball Academy; Keith Amemiya, Hawaii High School Athletic Association; Hannie Anderson, Oahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association; Dr. Jim Barahal, Honolulu Marathon; Rick Blangiardi, KGMB-TV; Nani Cockett, D. One Basketball; Bobby Curran, ESPN Radio; Jim Donovan, Sheraton Hawaii Bowl; John Fink, KHNL; Herman Frazier, University of Hawaii Director of Athletics; Tim Guard, McCabe, Hamilton, and Renny and Denver Broncos; Tony Guerrero, First Hawaiian Bank and Sony Open; Jim Haugh, former director, IMG Sports and Entertainment; June Jones, University of Hawaii Warriors Football; Duane Kurisu, Hawaii Winter Baseball; Jim Leahey, KHNL/KFVE; Mitzi Lehano, OC16; Al Minn, Master's Swim Program; Marilyn Moniz-Kahoohanohano, University of Hawaii Associate Director of Athletics; Michele Nagamine, Outrigger Hotels; Dr. Dave Porter, Brigham Young University Hawaii Tennis; Keala Watson, HHSAA Diving Coordinator; Wally Yonamine, Hall of Fame; Hugh Yoshida, former University of Hawaii Director of Athletics; and Mark Zeug, Aloha State Games/Senior Olympics/Quarterback Club.


Ex-officio members, all with the City and County of Honolulu, include Councilman Todd Apo; Ann Chung, Office of Economic Development; Jeff Coelho, Customer Service Department; Ralph Goto, Emergency Medical Services; Gail Haraguchi, Department of Enterprise Services; Gregg Hirata, Office of the Mayor; Hubert Minn, Customer Service Department; and Dana Takahara-Dias, Department of Parks and Recreation.


High School Support


            At the same time, Mayor Hannemann announced that the City was coming to the aid of local high school athletic programs, which are facing shortages of gyms and baseball fields now that the boys and girls basketball and baseball/softball seasons will coincide.


            He was flanked by Dwight Toyama, executive director of the Oahu Interscholastic Association, Don Botelho, executive director of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, and Keith Amemiya, executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, each of whom thanked the mayor and City for supporting prep athletics.


            Historically, Hawaii and Michigan had been the only states to continue to play a handful of female sports in other sport seasons.  But in April 2007, after a lengthy battle in the courts, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling, thereby forcing Michigan high schools to realign their sports seasons, specifically moving girls’ basketball to the winter.  That landmark case prompted Hawaii schools to revise their sports calendars.


            The changes means boys and girls basketball will be played simultaneously in the winter, placing a premium on gymnasium space because there are far more games than there are gym times.  The ILH’s Don Botelho noted that his league has to schedule 600 games among the available spaces.


            The boys’ baseball and girls’ softball seasons will be in the spring.  OIA director Toyama said the Department of Education will need to look for City fields to accommodate the demand.


            Mayor Hannemann said, “As soon as the HHSAA announcement was made, I assigned the Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Enterprise Services to look into how the City could accommodate the anticipated demand for gym and field space.  Les Chang and Dana Takahara-Dias of Parks, and Sid Quintal and Gail Haraguchi of Enterprise Services, worked very hard to support this endeavor.”


            The City already provides fields for high school baseball, including Fred Wright Field for Leilehua; Lanakila District Park for Farrington, Damien, and Kamehameha; Ala Wai Community Park for ILH schools; Moiliili Neighborhood Park for ILH schools; Kahala Community Park for Kalani; Kahuku District Park for Kahuku, and Aiea District Park for Aiea.  A number of ILH schools use Ala Wai Community Park, Moiliili Neighborhood Park, and Kamamalu Neighborhood Park for softball.  These sites will continue to be available to the leagues.


            The mayor said the City will offer the schools the NBC Arena and several community gyms for the upcoming school year.  The NBC Arena will be available during the weekdays.  Gyms will be available in each recreation district, once a week during the spring basketball season.  They include Manoa Valley District Park, Halawa District Park, Salt Lake District Park, Kailua District Park, and Waianae District Park.


            Hannemann recalled that when he was playing high school basketball, the leagues played back-to-back games at the NBC and suggested that they consider reviving that practice as a way of boosting attendance and maximizing use of the arena.


            He said, “The ILH and OIA might think about having, say, a triple-header that begins with a late afternoon JV contest, followed by a varsity girls’ game and a boys’ game afterward.  When I was in high school, our games would serve as a warm-up for the UH Rainbows men’s game at night.  With some imagination and drive, we could once again attract big crowds to the NBC.”


            The City will make several baseball/softball fields available to the ILH and OIA for school year.  These include Keehi Lagoon; Hans L’Orange, which now has new perimeter fencing, a new backstop, new light poles, and a new electronic scoreboard; Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park; Goeas Baseball Field in Hawaii Kai, which will open this winter; and Ala Wai Community Park, which now has replacement field lighting.


            The City is offering the Mink CORP baseball fields to Coach Mike Trapasso of the University of Hawaii Rainbow baseball team, while Murakami Stadium is getting new turf.





Bill Brennan, 527-6928


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

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